I would like to make one final point before moving on, and it is a critical point in understanding this area of our motivation to take up the cross.
Jesus could not succeed and win over the religious and political leadership in Jerusalem in the first-century because the gulf between worldly conventional thinking and a God-composed journey of faith is too wide to bridge. The leaders in Jerusalem fulfilled the messianic prophecies of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 in crucifying Jesus precisely because of the historic reality of this wide gulf. They could do no other than to reject the lowly yet miracle-working Jesus of Nazareth, because their mindset and hearts were stuck in the flat-line status quo realm of worldly expectations alone, worshipping at the safe idol of conventional normalcy rather than the risk-filled, Abraham-style adventure of faith.
By contrast, in Luke 10:17 the story is told of the returning seventy disciples sent out to minister two-by-two: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject unto us through thy name.” These ordinary, common-folk disciples are seen here as excited and overjoyed at the possibilities arising in this new elevated realm of faith in God and in beneficial service to mankind.
Counterintuitively, the leading Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and lawyers in Israel in the first century couldn’t care less about the teaching or the miracles of Jesus. They did not care about healing the blind, the lame, the deaf and dumb, and those afflicted with leprosy. They only wanted to know from Jesus: “what are you going to do about the Romans occupying our country?” and “what are you going to do about our economy…about improving trade and business…and especially about peace and an eternal kingdom in Jerusalem?” These religious leaders basically said through their words and their actions throughout the four New Testament gospels: “we do not care about your Sermon on the Mount or raising Lazarus from the dead…we care only about the horizontally conventional aspects of worldly political power” (Jn. 11:47-48). A God-composed journey of faith life-script, following God by faith according to the uniquely singular Jewish tradition of Abraham, was oddly and disappointingly the farthest thing from their hearts and minds (Jn. 8:23).
When Jesus stands before Caiaphas and the religious leaders at His night trial, the basic question at issue about the ministry of Jesus is: “whom makest thou thyself?” (Jn. 8:53). The cross, the resurrection, and Pentecost had not happened yet. The resurrection, which would change everything from that time forward for all eternity, was four days away. Jesus was being judged solely by His works and His teaching up to that point in time. The wide gulf between “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33) and “what do you plan to do about the Roman occupation of our nation Israel?”…Isaiah 9:6-7 as interpreted by these religious leaders…is center-stage and fully on trial, as it still is today. The current and future spiritual vision…the ability or inability to see Jesus for who He was, is what was on trial.
The main point here is expressed by Paul (someone personally and intimately familiar with the issues in question) in Romans 8:6-7…”For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” If we attempt to follow the Law through our own self-directed carnal mind, without the benefit of a new spiritual heart that enables us to enter into a divinely crafted journey of faith…we will fall short.
Jesus was considered a failure and was crucified, by the religious leaders and a portion of the general populace because He was operating far above the horizontal realm of worldly conventional thinking and living. An elevated journey of faith powered by God, and carnally-minded conventional thinking, are incompatible at a lethal level when perfectly expressed through Jesus Christ the Son of God walking through this broken world which is blindly lost in sin.